The US is largely recognized as a global leader in Zero Energy Buildings (ZEB) and sustainable construction. The ZEB (or ZNEB: Zero Net Energy Buildings) concept is largely American in origin.
The NREL, the DOE, the Energy Star program, the US Green Building Council (LEED) are global leaders in green building, energy efficiency and Zero Energy Buildings. Even the software and tools used worldwide to design, monitor or manage ZEB and energy efficiency issues are mostly American.
Many of the most important projects in these areas are being designed and implemented in California. California – more than the United States as a whole - is the global leader in Zero energy buildings, clean technology and renewable sources of energy.
California’s ZEB buildings (ZNEB: Zero Net Energy Buildings)
In 2007, the CPUC (California Public Utilities Commission) adopted a project to guide the future construction of Zero Energy buildings (from 2020 on, residential buildings; from 2030 on, commercial buildings): the 2007 Integrated Energy Policy Report.
This commitment has been reiterated by the California Long Term Energy Efficiency Strategic Plan in 2008. This Plan involves California’s regulated utilities: the Pacific Gas and Electric Company, the Southern California Edison Company, San Diego Gas and Electric Company, Southern California Gas Company and more than 500 organizations.
The 2013 Integrated Energy Policy laid out the steps and renewables options for achieving the NZEB goals.
The working vision framework for the 2020 goals – informing the exact targets and strategies of the Action Plan – can be consulted here.
Sites associated with California’s NZEB:
Zero Net Energy Residential
Energy Design Resources
2013 Integrated Energy Policy
Savings by Design
New Buildings Institute
California Advanced Homes
Major American Energy Buildings projects
There isn’t, at the US federal level, a plan for Zero Energy Buildings like that of the European Union (or that of California, mentioned earlier).
Just some big projects involving energy improvements on residential and commercial buildings, especially the Better Buildings project announced by President Obama in 2011.
This project – the Alliance for Better Buildings, with more than 200 members - involves the “commercial” sector, that is, the retail and food services and real estate, but also hospitality and health care, higher education, and state and local public buildings.
That’s a critical project. These buildings consume about $400 billion in energy per year. The ultimate goal is to make them 20% more energy efficient over the next 10 years.
The DOE has also a Better Buildings Residential program, connecting energy efficiency programs and partners, and a Better Buildings Residential Program Solution Center – a collection of several hundreds of examples and handbooks, strategies, and resources to improve residential energy efficiency.
More: Better Buildings Program
Non-governmental projects, organizations and businesses
The idea of mandating Zero Energy Buildings is out of step with the traditional views of many Americans. To them, home builders, developers and other stakeholders should not be forced to build Zero Energy Buildings.
But there are hundreds of American foundations, businesses, organizations, universities and other institutions that are pushing for higher energy efficiency standards, sustainable construction and Zero Energy Buildings.
There is a growing awareness that buildings are a major cause of climate change (they consume more energy than the industry and the transportation sector) and that Zero Energy Buildings – and all the stuff that surrounds them: solar photovoltaics, energy improvements, solar leasing… - are critical to stop global warming. American buildings consume 75% of the country's electricity, and 34% of the natural gas.
Hence the wide-spread support for higher energy standards in buildings, clean technologies, and energy improvements in buildings.
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Supporting Net Zero Energy Buildings in America
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